image  by Sheila Blackford   ©2016

Senders of malware are tricky, but lawyers and their staff are smart enough to thwart the sender’s efforts.

Recently a colleague here at the PLF was contacted by a concerned Oregon lawyer who received an email eCourt notice that turned out to be fake and trying to deliver an attachment that was a virus.  The facts are instructive.

Lawyer had an upcoming hearing in lawyer’s local county court. Let’s say the date of the court appearance was for May 18, 2016. The reminder purported to be from the local county court providing a court reminder of the upcoming hearing. The date was accurate. The attachment was labelled “Court Notice.” Lawyer’s virus , Oregon’s 4th Judicial District scanner detected this email as being a problem so flagged it as a virus. Although the email ‘said’ it was from the county court, the domain name was completely different. Lawyer did not open that “Court Notice” which would have launched a virus. Lawyer called to share the lesson.

What is the lesson? You can never be too careful with email mail attachment and emailed hyperlinks. Spoofers pretend to be legitimate companies. But if you look close, you can catch the spoof, whether the domain name doesn’t properly match or the email message reads a bit off. It calls for paying closer attention. For example Multnomah County Circuit Court has a very nice website. A specific judge at Multnomah County Circuit court would have their email address looking like this: Don’t just rely on the name, look for the actual email address coming from the expected domain name.

My email may show up in your email inbox as coming from ‘Sheila M. Blackford’ but pressing on the name, you will see my actual email address domain which will be SheilaBatOSBdotPLFdotORG.  I really don’t like spam or malware in my inbox. That’s why my email address spells out the proper email punctuation in the previous sentence. There are robots that harvest email addresses from the Internet so I wanted to be careful here.

A lesson about attachments, be careful before opening any attachment. It could be malware, not what you are expecting. Hopefully your malware protection software will flag it. But it may not. Unless you are downloading a program from the internet from a verified trusted site– you should never be opening a document that ends with .exe.  CAVEAT: Be certain that you are about to download a safe program from a  legitimate website such as downloading Windows 10 from  Microsoft Word 2016 documents end with .docx  You may notice that your malware protect software provides an option to scan a document before opening it.

I will never forget my own malware experience while in law school at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. I was about 80% done with the law review article to be submitted for making law review. It was good. Past tense. When I  booted up to finish the last 20%, a virus executed and wiped everything out. Everything. Ah! I tried to reconstruct that article which took hours and hours. Sleepless in the Bay Area, my husband volunteered to drive me the 3 hours to get to law school in Sacramento on time to turn it in at the last minute. But it bore a poor resemblance to the article I had lost. I did not make the main law review journal. I did not make the second tier law review journal. I ended up as an editor on the California Initiative Review. Better than nothing but a bummer.Sad story, huh? But a malware virus could have even worse consequences for you lawyers. Seriously, think if your hard work was destroyed. AH! So be careful. You don’t need to learn lessons the hard way.

Be safe.